By Steve Klinger
The Democrats, in a baffling instance of rapid-cycling mutation, are proving again to be a subspecies of Homo sapiens that appears to have a backbone only when they are live on C-Span. In the backrooms where the deals get done they are total invertebrates, as demonstrated by the debt-ceiling deal emerging in Congress this weekend.
Republicans are pleading for just a little more Democratic support, which tells everything about whose plan is moving forward to avoid the trumped-up deadline for national default. Despite months of rhetoric about not making the little guy pay for budget austerity, the Democrats’ version of the “compromise” going forward is even more of what the Republicans wanted than they ever expected to obtain: A 12-member “Super Congress” that will have to come up with about $1.8 trillion in cuts by Thanksgiving – or entitlement programs will automatically be cut instead (the right’s objective all along). No revenue enhancement, no expiration of the Bush tax cuts, apparently no legislation even to eliminate tax loopholes.
The cardinal rule of negotiation with terrorists and rogue states is, don’t ransom hostages or you simply reinforce and encourage the behavior. This is especially true when you have taken yourself hostage. The Republicans in Congress, with the Tea Party sticking knives into their backs, are a gang of terrorists, holding the United States and its system of democracy hostage. The debt ceiling crisis is an artifice – blackmail, pure and simple. The right knew from Obama’s cave on the budget a few months ago that he and Senate leaders would not only blink on the debt ceiling but would deliver the keys to the candy store with their eyes shut tight.
Obama had a reasonable option: invoking the 14th Amendment, which states that the debts of the United States shall not be questioned. Certainly there was some legal gray area, but in the absence of a reasonable and fair legislative agreement, he could have kept the option open and exercised it under a state of emergency – but not this conciliator-in-chief. He could have led, as he was elected to do, but he abstained. Essentially, he abdicated his constitutional duties, as he has been doing for two-and-a-half years.
Majorities of over 70 percent of the public in recent polls have said they want the rich to pay their fair share of reining in the deficit, but the Republicans continue to lie shamelessly in pretending they are following the will of the people. The media perpetuate outrageous false equivalencies in reporting the so-called balanced view that both sides need to compromise. Only some bloggers, a few columnists and a handful of radio and television commentators have pointed out that the emperor has no clothes: The “compromise” is persuading the kidnapper to take your food away in four months instead of next week as the price for agreeing to leave the oxygen flowing to your tomb.
And this from a party that putatively controls the Senate and the White House. Last time I checked, that was two-thirds of the day-to-day decision-making authority in this country. Why should they be the ones to blink in this game of chicken, especially when the President holds the trump card of invoking the 14th Amendment?
This deal should incite a riot but will probably only get AARP members to bang on their bedpans for a few days. It should bring millions into the streets with signs and shouts of protest. All it will do is send those millions into the streets and under the overpasses one family a time when all the safety nets erected over decades of social progress are ripped away from them by the plutocratic predators who will devour the nation until, like the parasites they are, they succumb along with their host victim.
And sadly, most shameful of all, is a president so many of us supported to change the way things are done, who wasn’t up to the task, who proved oh so much better at spouting promises than protecting his charges and the democracy that elevated his sorry ass.